Hospital’s interim use of locums expected to increase employment costs

Chris Swann.
Chris Swann
Costs associated with employing locum doctors at Oamaru Hospital are set to rise "markedly" in the next six months, the chairman of Waitaki District Health Services says.

Recent resignations and a shift from a specialist to generalist model at the hospital, part of a continuing transition which involved doctors being trained and recruited as rural health specialists, meant that more locums than usual were required to staff the hospital.

As a result, staff costs would rise until the hospital was back to a full compliment of salaried staff, Waitaki District Health Services chairman Chris Swann said.

"It will be the second six months of the year where  our expenditure is going to increase markedly because of locums. It’s hitting us a wee bit now and we’ve got a plan, obviously, to get some doctors on board.

"Our goal is not to use locums, which we will achieve; to effectively man the roster with our own doctors and not have to bring in locums."

Two new doctors had been employed and would start in June.

A further recruitment drive was also under way.

According to the company’s half-yearly report, total expenditure in the six months to December 31 was up $428,899, which the report said was due to an increase in staff costs.

However, Mr Swann said locums accounted for "very little" of that and that the bulk of the increase came as a result of employment contract negotiations.

While he did not know how many locums were being used at the hospital or how much would be spent employing them over the next six months, Mr Swann said a more "relevant measure" was how many shifts were being worked by locums.

"We might have certain locums that do a whole lot of work, doing regular shifts each week or each month, or whatever it is. Our expenditure for the second half of the year is normally medical officer costs, but it will be locum costs.

"Our staff costs for our medical model for the second half of this year will be up ... then it should come back as we get more fulltime doctors. It’s a lot more economic if you can man your roster with salaried staff."

He said the use of locums was beneficial, as it allowed the hospital to employ "people to fit the future model". 

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